This is the fourth post in a five-part series on loss and healing, a story shared by Shannon from Brisbane, AU. Yesterday, she shared her early pregnancy fears, and her decision to pursue midwifery care at the local hospital. Today, she writes about her experience of early labour. Check back tomorrow for the complete story and pictures of the birth of her son, Jasper!
“Fast-forward to September and my due-date of the 16th – I was still feeling quite good – waking every two hours at night to empty my non-existent bladder, but still relatively comfortable and enjoying feeling my baby moving about inside me. My pregnancy had thankfully been trouble-free and I had enjoyed rubbing my belly and day-dreaming about this long-awaited child.
I felt calm and confident that I could not only handle this birth, but make it as positive an experience as possible, no matter what happened. Jeremy had also been reading and learning about what to expect, and we had discussed the many things that we wanted to experience, and what we wanted our baby to experience as he or she came into the world. His knowledge and confidence reassured me that even though I had so much to do on my own, I was strongly supported and prepared. If it didn’t go to plan, we would deal with it together.
On the 18th, I went for a walk along the river near my house, and found a quiet seat to sit and look at the river flowing past. I had a chat with my baby and explained that I was ready to meet him or her now. In the previous few weeks I had been a little scared and overwhelmed by the idea of caring for a baby, and had been quite happy to have the baby stay put for a while longer. But now, I realised that I was ready, and it was normal to feel a little nervous, but I was more excited to find out if I was carrying a boy or a girl, and just who this little baby about whom I had been daydreaming for so long really was. I envisioned my body opening up and the baby moving down. I walked along the river for 45 minutes and returned home feeling relaxed and content.
At 4am the next morning, the cramping that I had been feeling on and off over the previous few days suddenly became much stronger. They made me head straight to the toilet, and though I suspected it might be the start of things, there was also the possibility that it was just an upset tummy. Five trips to the loo and a number of stronger contractions later, and I was pretty certain that today would be the day we would meet our baby. Jeremy had woken with me at 4am, but I had told him to go back to sleep and I’d wake him if I needed his help.
I spent about an hour and a half sitting on the fit ball, standing and rocking my hips and breathing through the contractions, as well as trying a tens machine someone had lent me. There was a big enough gap in between to eat some breakfast and pay a phone bill.
At 6am, I woke Jeremy with the sound of me vomiting up the breakfast I had eaten. I was then able to tell him that it was on – today he would meet the little being that he had felt kicking and squirming inside of me for the last nine months. I vomited again after another couple of strong contractions. My body was clearing itself out in readiness for the demands of the day ahead.
It was about this time that I realised the tens machine wasn’t really helping me. Jeremy suggested trying a hot bath. As I waited for him to run it for me, I knelt over the fit ball, rocking my hips. Once the bath was full, I hopped in, lying down in the soothing warm water. My contractions were now lasting for about a minute, and were somewhere between three and five minutes apart.
After a while, lying down wasn’t working for me – I felt that I had to get myself more grounded in order to cope with the tightenings. I turned over and got on my knees, holding onto the end of the tub. Jeremy had put on some music – the XX – which I found somewhat soothing when I was able to rest in between the intensity. I found that now, I HAD to vocalise throughout the contractions – I was making an ‘ooooh’ sound – and this helped me to focus and release the pain and tension from my body.
Jeremy had spoken to our midwife a few times, and she confirmed it sounded as though I were in active labour, and to remain at home as long as we felt able to cope. By this time, it was peak hour traffic, which could potentially make a 20 minute trip to the hospital into a 45 minute mission. I started to feel as though I wanted to head to the hospital soon, but Jeremy made some suggestions to try to get through three more contractions, or to wait until 8:30, and see how we were going. I am glad for this – having more contractions in the car than was necessary would have been challenging.
By about 8am, I needed to get out of the bath. Jeremy warmed up the heat pack and held it firmly onto my lower back with each contraction. I swayed my hips on all fours on our bed, still ‘oooohing’ away. During the lulls he raced around throwing last minute items into the hospital bag, and packing a nice big food bag to ensure he could keep energised (it didn’t get touched until we got home). We decided that we would leave for the hospital at about 9:20, and called our midwife, who arranged to meet us there.
We made our way to the car and began driving. Within seconds, I felt another contraction beginning. I immediately yelled at Jeremy to “stop the car!!” and moaned my way through it. I somehow managed to let Jeremy keep driving throughout the five more I had on the way to the hospital. It was quite surreal, looking out the window at the commuters on their normal drive to work, as I moaned and writhed inside our car on what was sure to be the most monumental day of our lives…”
Shannon is a Brisbane-based family photographer specializing in unique, natural portraits. Her work can be seen at langbecker.com.au.